My playlist has kept pointing me to a particular song in the last few days. It’s the Mitchell Trio’s “Phoenix Bird“. I went to go look it up to see what history (and Youtube) had to say about it. I found… absolutely nothing. Not a single Youtube video exists of it. You can’t find it on Amazon, or Google music. It’s lost. There’s no tale of the context or history. I can only tell you what the words say.
But I’m finding it meaningful lately. The Mitchell Trio were social justice warriors fifty years ago, the last time we seriously fought the fight between those who think some people are worth less than others, and those who believe all people are created equal. Their other songs ranged from tongue in cheek to weep-worthy. (See In the Summer of His Years for that.) The Phoenix Bird talks about fighting this good fight again and again. It reminds me that brave people paid prices in blood for making courageous stands against bigotry. These singers are folk of their era, so they talk about “men”, and how men will continue to arise as needed to fight for freedom. But the call goes out to all of us.
I’m not sure it’s entirely encouraging, this cyclical fight that we have fought over generations since we first kidnapped and enslaved and forever exiled from their homes entire nations of people. But I am encouraged to arise and fight – for freedom.
Mitchell Trio – from “The Violets of Dawn”
The story’s told
Of the days of old,
And the fabled bird, the phoenix.
The bird was killed,
And its wings were stilled
In a fire that burned with fury.
The flames grew cold
And then bird of gold
Then arose from the burned out ashes –
Rose to the sky,
There to circle high
Forever and ever after.
So the story’s told
Of those days of old
And that fabled bird, the phoenix.
And now once again,
Oh yes once again,
Once again that fabled story.
For freedom’s pride
Men are crucified
On a burning cross of hatred.
The flames may kill
Yet more men will arise! Arise!